Saturday, September 22, 2012

Columbia, Brown, and 15 More Universities Join Coursera's Free Online Platform

Columbia, Brown, and 15 More Universities Join Coursera's Free Online Platform

by Anya Kamenetz,
September 19th 2012

Columbia, Brown, and 15 More Universities Join Coursera's Free Online Platform


Having already teamed up with more colleges than any of its rivals, Coursera adds 17 new global universities to its roster.

Coursera, the platform for "massively open online courses" founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford, announced today that it has doubled its number of university partners. The new roster includes several global institutions.

Since its debut earlier this year, 1.3 million people have signed up for a free six- to ten-week Coursera class, which includes videos, exercises, embedded assessment and a social component delivered through message boards. Here's a more detailed explanation of how the program works, from Fast Company's September 2012 feature story about Coursera:

Coursera courses are 6 to 10 weeks long, with an hour or two of videos per week. In addition to the snap quizzes, they feature weekly exercises, ranging from problem sets to spreadsheets to design projects or essays, and sometimes a final project or exam. For all quantitative courses, the platform uses artificial intelligence to evaluate each longer exercise, with instant results. Students can keep trying until they get the right answer. For humanities courses, Coursera is testing a form of peer grading.

Although still exploring business models, the venture-funded company plans to eventually make money through certifications (a path competitor Udacity is already pursuing). The addition of these new partners will give Coursera an advantage in what's become an increasingly crowded online education market.

Berklee College of Music, Brown University, Columbia, Emory University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, The Ohio State University, University of British Columbia, University of California, Irvine, University of Florida, University of London, University of Maryland, University of Melbourne, University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University, and Wesleyan University have all signed agreements with Coursera to bring versions of their professors' courses online for free.

The Course Catalog of the Future

Take these classes online--most for free--from professors at top universities

Founders: Daphne Koller of Stanford and Andrew Ng of Stanford and Google
Founded: April 2012
Funding: $16 million from New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins
Enrollment: More than 100,000 in the first courses
Format: Short videos, quizzes and problem sets with immediate feedback, and a Q&A forum.
Topics: The fullest selection, from poetry to probability.
Cost: Free for now.
Sample course: Model Thinking, an interdisciplinary social-science course by Scott E. Page, a professor of complex systems, computer science, and economics at the University of Michigan.

Founder: Anant Agarwal of MIT
Founded: April 2012
Funding: $60 million in pledges from Harvard and MIT
Enrollment: 100,000 in the first course
Format: Short videos, problem sets, a forum, wiki, and Facebook study groups. Some neat features built by volunteers, like a graphic that shows your cumulative homework scores.
Topics: They pledge to offer humanities as well as the sciences.
Cost: Free, with plans to charge for certifications.
Sample course: MIT 6.002x, Circuits and Electronics, taught by Agarwal, Gerald Sussman, and Piotr Mitros of MIT, an entry-level electrical engineering course.

Minerva Project
Founder: Ben Nelson, former CEO of Snapfish
Founded: April 2012; launching 2014
Funding: $25 million from Benchmark Capital
Enrollment: N/A
Format: Pre-recorded video lectures and live video chat with classmates and discussion leaders.
Topics: Comprehensive--arts and sciences
Cost: Up to $20,000 a year for tuition.
Sample course: As an undergraduate at Wharton, Nelson designed an interdisciplinary class that had undergraduates work in groups to review the scientific literature on obesity.

Founders: Sebastian Thrun of Google and Stanford and Peter Norvig of Stanford
Founded: January 2012
Funding: $5 million from Charles River Ventures
Enrollment: 100,000 in the first course
Format: Short videos, quizzes and problem sets, a wiki and forum, and a live course manager like a TA. Courses are organized by level with links to suggested prerequisites.
Topics: Focus on computer science, with a few other science and math topics.
Cost: Free for now. Eventually, perhaps $100 in tuition for a master's degree.
Sample course: CS373, Artificial Intelligence for Robotics, aka "Programming a Robotic Car." Prerequisites include knowledge of Python, probability, and linear algebra.



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